Authorities at Mzimba Prison have conceded that they continuously violate rights of inmates at the facility due to congestion.
Station Officer for Mzimba Prison, Prince Wasili, said that suspects stay on remand longer than necessary, and that, due to overcrowding, they are deprived of their basic rights of sleeping space and food, among other necessities.
“Government is spending a lot of money feeding some inmates who have overstayed here but they have never been taken to court. These inmates are also the ones contributing to the congestion problem.” he said.
Wasili was speaking when officials from a local non-governmental organisation, Know the Laws of the Land (Knoll), were teaching inmates some laws and how best to present their arguments in court.
“We are keeping up to 600 people but the prison is supposed to accommodate 350 inmates. This means we might be breaking some laws.”
He then said some of the inmates only needed bail but they are not aware of the procedures because they do not have any knowledge regarding the relevant legislation.
“Majority of the people on remand are blank on the court session. On top of that, they cannot manage to pay lawyers. We are keeping them here and they do not know when they would to be released. This is to the disadvantage of them and us too,” Wasili said.
Knoll Executive Director, Christon Ghambi, said the complaints that have been raised at Mzimba Prison are similar to those raised at Mzuzu Prison.
He said it is sad that Mzimba Prison is still keeping people who have been on remand in the range of three to eight years without being heard in court.
“We are forging ahead. We will be teaching inmates and the general public the laws of the land so that they should have courage to stand in court and speak. Remember, the laws are not for lawyers but people,” he said.
During the session many inmates asked if the 48-hour law is valid, complaining that they stayed longer at police.
Apart from meeting inmates, Knoll is using musicians, poets and drama to teach people about the laws of Malawi.
Meanwhile, Knoll has taken cases of two longest serving suspects on remand at Mzimba Prison pro-bono.
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